Leicester 41 Dragons 17: Tigers impose Murphy's law on cross-border dispute

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Revenge for defeat at Rodney Parade a year ago and the dismantling of the Dragons' proud away record this season sent the Tigers faithful purring on their way to Saturday night celebrations after a team laced with dirt-trackers won Leicester's opening match in the EDF Energy Cup.

It may have looked a little like an A team game at times, but there was no doubting the spirit of the East Midlands side and their right to win. What they sometimes lacked in organisation, not surprisingly as so many had been away on England squad duty in the first part of the week, they more than made up for with an 80-minute appetite for work.

It was a demonstration of strength in depth and the Tigers were made favourites to win the cup by the Dragons head coach, Paul Turner.

It took Paul Burke less than five minutes to put the home side ahead with a beautifully struck penalty from 32 metres, and he repeated the dose after 16 minutes when the Dragons' defence again strayed offside under pressure.

The full-back John Murphy, who made his first-team debut last week against Harlequins, then worked with the prop Martin Castrogiovanni to score the first try. Burke added the conversion, and Newport could hardly blame luck for being 13 points down after 18 minutes.

Nor was it anything to do with luck when, in a rare spell on the back foot, a poorly organised Leicester defence was caught offside and Craig Warlow kicked an easy penalty. Less than two minutes later the centre Scott Williams planted a breakaway try under the posts. Warlow added the conversion and black and amber spirits rose.

Not for long. Leicester swept up to the Dragons' line, the flanker James Harris picked up a yellow card for his desperate defence and, after three penalties, Newport conceded a penalty try, which Ian Humphreys, replacing Burke, converted. A 20-10 score at half-time was in line with the run of play.

With the Dragons still a man short, Dan Hipkiss made a solo break only to be dragged down by Kevin Morgan, but the ball was quickly worked away for the hooker James Buckland to scamper over. A returning and head-bandaged Burke converted.

Shane Jennings made it look equally easy with 15 minutes to go and Burke converted. Kevin Morgan then slid in for a Dragons try, converted from near touch by Ceri Sweeney, who, along with Colin Charvis, had been called to arms. Deep into injury time, it fell to Humphreys to deliver Leicester's fifth try, which he converted.

The Leicester coach, Pat Howard, was more concerned with the continuing conundrum of finding a settled side to win the Heineken Cup. He made it clear that the England scrum-half Harry Ellis would have to fight for his place, as would Ollie Smith in the centre and the wing Tom Varndell, who has been sent back to finishing school at Bedford. It is a nice problem to have, but it is not easy to solve.

Leicester: J Murphy; L Lloyd, O Smith (D Gibson, 51), D Hipkiss, A Tuilagi; P Burke (I Humphreys, 68), S Bemand (F Murphy, 62); M Ayerza, J Buckland, M Castrogiovanni (J White, 66), L Cullen (capt), J Hamilton (L Deacon, 62), L Moody, J Crane (B Deacon, 50), S Jennings.

Newport-Gwent Dragons: K Morgan (capt); G Chapman (R Fusell, 69), N Brew, S Williams, A Brew; C Warlow (C Sweeney, 50), G Baber (G Cooper, 50); D Maddocks, B Daly (R Thomas, 61), L Harrison, B Griffiths, L Charteris, A Hall, N Fitisemanu, J Harris (C Charvis, 51).

Referee: W Barnes (Surrey).

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